Go on, sniff my hair – it’s delicious!

10 Nov
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From the LUSH website.

When I travel, I take a bar of LUSH shampoo with me. That way I don’t need to use the hotel shampoo, which keeps one piece of single use plastic out of a landfill or – just as likely – the ocean. The added bonus is that LUSH products smell delicious and lather up like a beast. The only (potential) problem? The shampoo bar I like has all kinds of seeds and fibers imbedded in it. I’m not sure exactly what purpose they serve, but…

…When I rinse my hair it often looks as if I’ve just used my hands to toss a quinoa bowl, which isn’t exactly what you’re looking for out of a shower. Kitchen? Yes. Shower? No.

…I fear that if I don’t rinse my hair well, I’ll become a walking bird feeder, doomed to a fate similar to Tippi Hedren’s. I imagine having to windmill my arms to fend off a flock of hungry sparrows.

…I wonder if I’m clogging up the plumbing by sending these seeds down the drain. And for the seeds that end up in the bottom of the shower and don’t go down the drain – what does the housekeeping staff think?

…On the positive side, in a survival scenario, I’m 80% confident I could eat my shampoo for the nutrients.

Are you sold?

 

Observations from the Road

6 Nov

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Editor’s Note: I recently “quit” Facebook, so I expect I’ll be writing here more frequently since those thoughts need to go somewhere. As a result, you can expect my posts here to be shorter, less structured, and even more narcissistic than they may have been in the past. You’re welcome?!

Since leaving full-time employment three years ago, I’ve tried to really dial-back my travel and reduce my carbon footprint. I’ve gone from flying monthly – or more – to only 1-2 times per year for work. It’s not perfect, but it’s progress. I consider it a badge of honor that I’ve lost my “elite” status with airlines’ rewards programs.

That said, this week is one of those times: I’m in LA to facilitate a client’s annual offsite meeting for a team of 25 people. I’m staying at the Loews Hotel in Hollywood, which literally backs up to the terribly tourist block that has Mann’s Chinese Theatre (home of the Oscars), the star-lined sidewalk, and dozens of guys in superhero costumes, trying to persuade you to take a photo with them for cash.

Last night, eager to get my steps in after spending six hours on a plane, I set out for a walk in the neighborhood behind the Magic Castle. The homes there are nice, and many of them have large privacy hedges lining the front walk. I sometimes bring shame to my naturalist father because I get a bit skittish about critters in nature. Had he been with me, last night would’ve been one of those times.

I kept hearing crazy rustling noises in the bushes as I walked. In DC, I would’ve dismissed them as rats. But because I’m in California? The obvious conclusion: a bobcat. Never mind that I’m in the heart of LA. And because I don’t have it in me to be like that guy who killed an attacking bobcat with his bare hands, my solution was to walk in the middle of the street where I could see it coming.

Of course, it didn’t come to that, and it probably WAS a rat. Or a lizard or something. But it definitely got my heartrate up – which is, you might note, the purpose of exercise anyway. Mission accomplished.

 

 

Not quite how I imagined it.

3 Aug
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What I thought I’d look like. (Clearly NOT me.)

I tried aerial yoga for the first time this week. I’ve been practicing regular yoga for almost 15 years, so I didn’t spare a thought for how challenging aerial yoga might be. It’s especially easy to under-estimate because the prop basically looks like a hammock. I envisioned myself doing a few Cirque du Soleil tricks, then basically taking a 45 minute nap, swaddled in the folds of silk.

Alas. I couldn’t have had it more wrong.

For starters, it’s PAINFUL. With the exception of when you’re in corpse pose (when you actually ARE all cocooned in it), your silk is almost always gathered up so it functions more like a rope than a hammock. And since you’re hanging from it, climbing up it, or twisted in it, that rope feels like a boa constrictor, hungry for its next meal. In fact, the day after my first class, I woke to find a series of purple bruises across my hips and around my shoulders.

Also? If you’re not precise in following instructions, there is a good chance you will end up toppling to the floor, breaking your nose or knocking out your teeth – or at least that’s what I kept imagining. The instructor would take us through these complex maneuvers to ensure we had the silk wrapped around our arms and legs in a way that would lock us in, then tell us to basically let go and topple face-first toward the floor. It felt like bungee jumping with a rig that had been prepped by a carnival worker.

I never quite trusted that I’d gotten the wraps correct, so I’d cautiously lower myself into position, despite the instructor’s admonishments to, “Let go and fly like Peter Pan” or “hang like a bumblebee!” But then, even if I did it correctly, the scarves would be cutting into my legs/arms/hips to such an extent that I’d try to walk myself back up to a place where I wasn’t in pain – but exiting the pose was often more complicated than entering, so you could probably characterize that portion of my effort as “general flailing.”

In fact, that’s probably the best way to summarize my foray into aerial yoga: general flailing. Had it been a Cirque du Soleil performance, they might not have had to issue refunds to the audience, but they may have had to offer counseling after.

So of course I’m going again.

At least one of us is thoughtful…

4 May

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Alan and I are in California for a friend’s wedding. On the flight out this morning, we started talking about flight attendants and what perks come with seniority. In the midst of this discussion, Alan said, “We should pick up something for our flight attendant on the way home.”

“Like a gift?” I asked.

“Just a little something – like a chocolate bar or something. I read an article that talked about how something like that goes a long way toward brightening their day. You know, something where you say, I was thinking of you!”

My cynical response was, “Because that’s not creepy at all. That comes across like, ‘I’ve been anticipating this flight and thinking about you,’” (at this point I was kind of rubbing my arms in a pervy kind of way), “’and I decided to bring you a chocolate bar.’”

Alan, seeing how his thoughtfulness could be misconstrued, latched on to the idea. “And instead of a chocolate bar, I’ll just bring her a single latex glove.”

At which point we both completely lost it. I’m not sure if we reached consensus on the whole gift thing for our return flight, or if I’m going to need to take my window seat and pretend I don’t know him.

Vacation! Part 2: Tanks, Horses & Hot Dogs

4 Nov

 

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I find nothing says, “Welcome, Americans” like a tank in front of the Parliament Building.

We arrived Vienna on Wednesday, after exploring Budapest for 3.5 days. People had cautioned us that Vienna was really expensive and the least interesting of the three cities we had on our itinerary, so we entered with low expectations… and were pleasantly surprised!

Our first full day in town was their big state holiday: National Day. Having googled it, I now know that they’re celebrating their declaration of permanent neutrality and regained status as an independent and sovereign nation in 1955. Before googling, I would’ve thought that it was a celebration of all uniformed professions, with an emphasis on the military, because we woke up to a town swimming in soldiers. Ironically, with troops marching in formation everywhere around town, it made it pretty easy to imagine Nazi-occupied Vienna.

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In an attempt to get our bearings (and fill in the gaps in our knowledge of Austrian history), we took a free walking tour. Maybe on another day, it would’ve been a superb tour, but on this day our guide (named Franz Joseph, like the former Austrian emperor) seemed to be phoning it in. I’m going to go out on a limb and say he may have overdone his patriotic celebrations the night before and was nursing a monster hangover; he offered little by way of historical facts and instead spent the tour making cracks about the Austrian military’s ineffectiveness and the inbreeding habits of the royal families.

While we’re usually not quitters, with a limited amount of time to explore this grand city, we decided to cut our losses and ghosted mid-way through the tour. We used the money we would’ve tipped a good guide to instead get fancy coffees and Kaiserschmarrn (an Austrian tradition!) on the patio of Café Mozart. Perhaps the best decision we made in Austria!* 

I couldn’t talk Alan into seeing an opera (I KNOW, right?!) but he was interested in seeing the famous Lippanzer horses, so we grabbed tickets and took in a practice session, which, as it turns out, should more accurately be named, “Horse Walking.” The practice consists of four 30 minute blocks featuring six different horses and riders in the ring at a time. A few horses were actually working on tricks (like weird little dance steps or balancing on their rear legs) but most of them seemed to be tasked with the basics, like walking close to a wall. While it certainly wasn’t riveting theatre, it was still interesting to learn about the Spanish Riding School and the training process. And it was raining outside, so… not the worst way to spend the morning.

Speaking of rain: on our way to the flea market (Naschmarkt) for lunch, the skies opened up and dumped on us. We arrived at the market just as the rain started falling in sheets, and took shelter under the awning of a fish stand where we ordered a basket of fried shrimp. Our intention was to lazily eat our way through the market, but there’s nothing relaxing about eating in the middle of a downpour where hurricane-force winds are driving the rain sideways at you. On another day, it would’ve been a great plan. Instead we ended up bailing and running in a restaurant across the street to dry off and split a plate of fish and chips. So much for channeling Anthony Bourdain.

Speaking of plans gone bust: I’d read that heurigers (quaint little estates where they have weingartens that also serve food) are a uniquely Austrian experience. I thought hitting one on our last day in town would give us a reason to check out a different part of the area, since some are a tram ride about an hour outside the heart of the city. After navigating a tram-line under construction (which called for a partial detour using the subway), we arrived in Nussdorf with high hopes.

Alas, the first one we went to had a sign on its gate indicating that it was closed all day for a private event. Boo. Fortunately, there was a second heuriger in town (and on the same street) so we shuffled along. Unfortunately, it ALSO had a sign on its gate, but we couldn’t figure out what it meant. I tried using Google Translate’s photo app on my phone, and the resulting (obviously incorrect) translation had us raising our eyebrows: “Nazis – attending – pay – listen.”

I was like, “Whelp. I think that means we probably should just keep walking.” Alan was undeterred, so he opened the gate. We found ourselves walking through what appeared to be the backyard of a home, which lead to a room that looked like a restaurant. The back door to the apparent restaurant was open and a woman was washing tables. It seemed pretty obvious that whatever the sign said, they weren’t open for business. Alan cheerfully proceeded, not at all concerned that we might be intruding on a Nazi lair. I pointed my toes toward the gate, ready to take off.

Turns out, it wasn’t a Nazi lair, but it also was closed for the day. We cut our losses and instead found a quaint local restaurant where we were able to split a delicious pork roast with a single potato dumpling the size of a tennis ball (weird) and a bowl of cabbage with bacon.

A word on food: If you are a fan of meat and potatoes, central Europe is your friend. Our trip featured multiple meals of schnitzel, sausages, goulash, and stroganoff. My pick for the best hot dog: Vienna. The street vendors will drill a hole in a baguette and drop a foot-long sausage down the hole with either ketchup or mustard, then put the tip of the loaf back on top like the sausage is wearing a hat. Delicious!

 

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This is where the magic happens. 

 

It was ambitious to try to hit three cities in 10 days, but I’m glad we took the time to stop in Vienna. On Saturday we said, “Auf Wiedersehen” and headed to the train station for our four hour trek to Prague.

*Clarification: I would’ve said that the best decision we made in Austria was asking a stranger to verify that we were at the correct train station when we had only 3 minutes to make a connecting train to Prague, but technically that happened in Breclav, which was just across the border, in the Czech Republic. More on that – and the frantic tossing of baggage off the train – later.